As a Muslim living in Japan, mealtime can turn into a tricky situation. It can be even more difficult if you are not fluent in Japanese, therefore find it hard to ask the waiter or read the ingredients when you are in a supermarket.  Here are information and tips on how to find your halal food anywhere you go.

Ingredients

Not all snacks and foods that are sold in Japan are halal. Japan usually uses alcohol-contained oil to cook foods. Furthermore, many processed foods contain animal-derived substances. You should look at the ingredients and check whether it contains the items mentioned below. If it does, then the food is not suitable to consume.

 

Alcohols (アルコール)

酒,リキュール, 洋酒, リカー – Liquor

ワイン- Wine

ラム酒 – Rum

みりん – Alcohol-contained oil

 

Fats, Extracts and Shortenings

脂 – fats

グリコーゲン, ブイヨン, コンソメ – Animal shortenings

ゼラチン- Gelatin

乳化剤 – Emulsifier*
ショートニング – Shortening*
マーガリン– Margarine*
油脂 – Oil and Fats*

*if these ingredients are followed by (大豆) soybeans or (植物性) plants, then the food is halal.

Visiting Restaurants

Halal restaurants are still not widely available in Japan. Most of the time, you will find yourself eating in a restaurant with no halal certification. As long as you pay attention to what you order, then you can be more certain of what you are about to feast on.

Pay attention to what kind of dish is served

Instead of eating meat, you can always choose a vegetable-based dish or seafood. Sushi restaurants are one of the safest options you can always take. Many of sushi toppings are raw fish, vegetables, and eggs, which are safe to eat. Some types of donburi can also be alternatives, such as sake (salmon) and maguro (tuna) donburi. For unagi (grilled eel) and tempura ( battered seafood vegetables) donburi, you need to be careful as there is a possibility that they add alcohol-contained sauce. You should also be aware that although some udon or soba restaurants offer non-meat topping dish, the broth sometimes contains pork.

A simple dish consists of rice and fish

Many complementary seasonings are not halal unless specified otherwise

You usually see various types of bottles on your table when you eat at a restaurant. It ranges from chilli powder, vinegar, to Japanese-style soy sauce, shoyu. Unfortunately, vinegar and shoyu usually contain alcohol. Again, before putting it on your food, check the ingredients information beforehand.

Useful Applications

Even though your diet is restricted, it does not mean that you cannot enjoy various kinds of meals available here. Below are two applications that will be useful when it comes to halal foods.

Halal Navi

Available for iOS and Android

source:  https://itunes.apple.com/jp/app/halal-navi/id887385257?l=en&mt=8

Halal Navi will guide you not only to the closest praying facilities, but it also gives you a list of nearby halal-certified or halal-friendly restaurants. From halal ramen, yakiniku to international cuisines, you can enjoy what you crave to have.  Moreover, you will also be able to read reviews from the users. This will allow you to get updated information regarding the restaurants.

Google Translate

Available for iOS and Android

source:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/google-translate/id414706506?mt=8

Whether you are in a hurry or reading kanji is not your strong suit yet, this application will help you translate ingredients or menu in a short time. By using the camera feature to capture what you do not understand, you will be able to read the translated version in your preferred language. The application also lets you use all its features offline as long as you download it to your smartphone.

As for me, the situation has gotten better since the first time I arrived. Even though halal restaurants are still not widely available in Japan, it does not restrict me from experiencing authentic Japanese foods. By getting more information through various platforms and also improving my Japanese skills, I have learned how to adapt as a Muslim in Japan.